Game 34: Buffalo Sabres @ Ottawa Senators

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The Kyle Turris era will officially begin tonight when the Ottawa Senators host the Buffalo Sabres. Despite not playing since Friday, the Senators still sit a single point out of a playoff spot. A regulation win tonight will see Ottawa jump past Buffalo and possibly into a playoff spot if the Jets lose to the Islanders. A win would also lift Ottawa into a tie on points with Toronto for the first time since both clubs were 0-0-0.

The Senators will make three changes to the lineup. The first is of course Kyle Turris, but Sergei Gonchar and Filip Kuba also return. Brian Lee and Bobby Butler are the healthy scratches. Here are the forwards and defencemen from Sylvain St-Laurent.

Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Daniel Alfredsson
Nick Foligno - Kyle Turris - Erik Condra
Zack Smith - Peter Regin - Chris Neil
Kaspars Daugavins - Zenon Konopka - Jesse Winchester

Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Sergei Gonchar
Chris Phillips - Matt Carkner

Craig Anderson (starter)
Alex Auld

Talking points and statistics after the jump.

Here are my talking points for tonight:

  • How will Turris look? : The main question that everyone will have on their mind is Kyle Turris and how he will fit in. Erik Condra might seem like an odd choice for a linemate, but he has pretty good possession numbers, albeit against weaker competition, so maybe he will be a good fit. In any case, expect the lines to be shuffled if this isn't a good fit. I predict Turris will have at least one point tonight and be full of energy.
  • Gonchar and Kuba also return: The return of these two defencemen can't be overstated. The power play has has been struggling without Gonchar and Kuba has been Ottawa's most used player on the penalty kill. Paul MacLean has also decided to break up the Erik Karlsson/Jared Cowen pairing and return Karlsson with Kuba.
  • Chris Phillips relegated to third pairing: Even I didn't see it coming this quickly but Phillips is playing with Matt Carkner on the bottom pairing. How long will Phillips be stuck on the third pairing and what kind of ice time can expect to see? I still think he will pull in a good 17-18 minutes.
  • Spezza and Art Ross race: Jason Spezza is currently tied for sixth in points in the NHL, three points behind the lead. None of the five players ahead of him play tonight. A big night could lift him to the top.
  • Big push before the break: The Senators have Buffalo and Florida at home this week, before a trip to Carolina on Friday. How many points can they pick up and how will it start tonight?
Here are the 2011-2012 comparative statistics for the Senators and the Sabres:

Category Ottawa Enemy - Buffalo
Value Rank Value Rank
Goals For per game 3.00 7th 2.72 13th
Goals Against per game 3.46 30th 2.91 20th
5 on 5 GF/GA ratio 0.89 21st 1.05 9th
Shots for per game 30.9 11th 29.3 20th
Shots against per game 31.7 25th 31.5 24th
Power play % 16.7 17th 18.0 13th
Penalty kill % 80.0 24th 83.8 9th
Category Ottawa Enemy - Buffalo
Player Value Player Value
Points Jason Spezza 36 Jason Pominville 35
Goals Milan Michalek 19 Thomas Vanek 17
Assists Erik Karlsson 27 Jason Pominville 25
PP Points Erik Karlsson 12 Jason Pominville 14
Shots Erik Karlsson 109 Thomas Vanek 104
Hits Nick Foligno 92 Robyn Regehr 80
Avg. Ice time Erik Karlsson 25:29 Christian Ehrhoff 24:17
Face-offs % Zenon Konopka 59.5 Paul Gaustad 56.9
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